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Moti Antiques and Collectables

Follower of Catherine Read – Portrait of Elizabeth Hamilton, Duchess of Hamilton & Argyll

Follower of Catherine Read – Portrait of Elizabeth Hamilton, Duchess of Hamilton & Argyll

Regular price £1,950.00 GBP
Regular price Sale price £1,950.00 GBP
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Item Description

Offered for sale is this Follower of Catherine Read 18th Century oil on canvas portrait, of what looks to be Elizabeth Gunning, the famed Duchess of Hamilton and Argyll.

The original portrait of her, wearing the same clothes, was painted in pastel by the Scottish woman artist Catherine Read in c. 1769, and is in the collection of Inveraray Castle, the seat of the Dukes of Argyll. There are also at least eight recorded copies of this portrait, some attributed to Read, including one in the Royal Collection in London, by the art historian Neil Jeffarers. The portrait also had mezzotints done of it, one by John Finlayson in 1770 (see image), and another two which are variations of the original pastel by Robert Sayer and Robert Laurie done around the same time.

This is a previously unknown copy, unrecorded by Jeffares, probably of 18th Century origin, either contemporary or near contemporary to the pastel by Read. However, unlike the original pastel portrait by Read, it has a feigned oval surrounding it, making a closer to the mezzotint by Finlayson (see image of it in listing). Either it is copy by another artist of the Finlayson mezzotint (see image of it in lasting) around the time it was produced, or the Finlayson mezzotint copied this portrait, hence the attribution of "Follower of Catherine Read" rather than "After Catherine Read" by me. Catherine Read was a well-known copyist, as has been recorded from contemporary accounts, who copied not only her own paintings, but those of other contemporary artists, like Sir Joshua Reynolds for instance, both in pastel and oil on canvas. Whether it is copy by Catherine Read, I would not like to say, especially as there has been old and significant restoration work around the face, however it is certainly worthy of further research and analysis.

Please note that this listing shows images taken with and without the camera flash, and in different lighting.

Please examined all photos before purchasing the painting.

Dimensions and weight

The painting measures 67.5 cm (nearly 26.5 inches) high by 50.5 cm (nearly 20 inches) wide, without the frame. In the frame it measures 87.5 cm (34.5 inches) high by 70.5 cm (nearly 28 inches) wide.

The painting with the frame weighs 6.97 kg.


The painting has been restored. There is an old repair to the face (see image). Painting could do with a professional clean as well.

The frame is in a distressed state but could be original to the painting.

Biography of Sitter

Elizabeth Gunning (1733-1790) was the second daughter of Colonel John Gunning of Castle Coote, County Roscommon, Ireland and his wife, the Bridget Bourke, daughter of the 6th Viscount Mayo. Born in Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire, she moved to Ireland at the age of three and lived there until 1750, when with her elder sister she was brought back to England, Due to her beauty she became a sought-after young woman in high society at the time. She became the wife of James, 6th Duke of Hamilton in 1752. The Duke of Hamilton, with whom she had three children, died in 1758 and in the following year she married John Campbell, Marquis of Lorne, who in 1771 succeeded as 5th Duke of Argyll. She was created Baroness Hamilton of Hambledon in her own right in 1776. She was also Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte (1761-1784) and was also appointed Mistress of the Robes in 1778. She died on 20 December 1790. She was also one of the most portrayed women in Britain during the period of 1750-70.

Biography of Katherine Read

Katherine Read was born in Dundee in 1723, and originally came from a Jacobite family. She studied in Paris and Rome. Read arrived in London in 1754 establishing herself as a fashionable portrait painter, working mostly with pastels, but also in oil and in miniature. In 1761 she gained the patronage of Queen Charlotte. She exhibited in London at the Society of Artists, the Free Society of Artists, and the Royal Academy. She moved to India with her niece in 1771, to paint portraits of British officers based there, and stayed until 1777. She died on board a ship somewhere near Madras, whilst returning from India to Britain. Her death is recorded on the 15th December 1778.

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